SAN ANTONIO, Texas (CN) – Northside Independent School District was in the dark when one of its teachers committed indecent acts with her female student, a federal judge ruled.
The parents of a 13-year-old student identified as Sarah Doe sued teacher Nora Martinez, the school district and Stevenson Middle School vice principal David Aslin in May 2011.
Doe’s parents say the district and Aslin were deliberately indifferent and failed to warn them that Martinez, who taught at the middle school for seven years, was acting inappropriately with their daughter.
Martinez fondled and sexually assaulted the girl, according to her complaint.
The parents say they uncovered their daughter’s inappropriate relationship with her teacher through text messages on the girl’s cellphone. They then shared those messages with school administrators.
Martinez resigned the next day while conceding that she had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with her student. She was later arrested and received two concurrent 10-year sentences after pleading guilty to online solicitation of a minor and indecency with a child by contact.
“This case is very tragic,” U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez wrote Monday. “An educator abused her position, befriended a vulnerable child, deferred acting until she gained the child’s trust, and then took advantage of her. The law, however, only allows for recovery of damages from a school district if the school district had actual notice of the harassment and responded with deliberate indifference.”
But there is no evidence that Northside had such notice, nor that it was deliberately indifferent, the order states.
“In this case there was no direct complaint made or brought to the district’s attention, school officials were only aware of vague inappropriate acts done by Ms. Martinez, the school officials repeatedly warned her to act more professional and not to have students lingering at her desk,” Rodriguez wrote.
The judge dismissed all claims against the district and Aslin in his 20-page order. Doe’s family has 14 days to indicate whether they wish to obtain a default judgment against Martinez, who has not provided an answer to the case, or dismiss their claims against her.